Focus On Pro-Bono

The benefits of pro-bono work have existed throughout history, not just for clients who are unable to afford legal advice and who’s lives can be changed by a solicitor providing a service for free; but also to the solicitors dispensing the advice, knowing what a difference they can make. 

The Law Society encourages all legal professionals to take part in pro-bono, from individuals to firms.   

Students and junior lawyers can use the experience to build on their client contact experience, as well as a way to improve communication and written skills.  Any work done can also help improve a CV, making it of more interest to potential employers.  HR specialists place pro-bono work above additional qualifications and paralegal experience.   

Within the community a firm can raise its status, being seen to have strong values.   Helping those in difficult situations benefits the community and reminds lawyers the difficulties faced by those who are unable to navigate the legal situation. 

 ”There is no question that a robust pro-bono programme is a sign of a law firm’s strength. It reflects the commitment of the firm to its employees, its community, the rule of law, and it justifiably burnishes the institution’s reputation for hard work and creativity.” – Law Society  

Pro-bono is also shown to increase positivity and mental health; the feeling that you have helped a vulnerable person can certainly increase your sense of well-being and worth, as well as increase the positivity within a team, helping them to learn to work together as well as a sense of achievement. 

Sarah Green, Associate, TLT LLP and Resolution National Committee member, said:

“Pro-bono was a really important part of the start of my career as a family lawyer. Over the space of a few years, I volunteered at the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, a local domestic abuse charity and a fathers’ support group, advising on a wide variety of family law issues. I also supervised GDL and LPC students running a family email advice line for the University of Law. At the time I was shortlisted for Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year at the Bristol Law Society Awards and subsequently was awarded the CSR Award for my work in the local community. This experience was invaluable as it helped me develop a sense of autonomy in my work and confidence in the advice that I was giving as a junior lawyer, and it was very satisfying to know that my small contribution was making a difference to individuals who otherwise would not have been able to benefit from legal advice.  However, it is a choice as a lawyer to provide pro-bono advice and this can often be difficult to do alongside the pressures of work and family life.  The responsibility for plugging the gap left by the changes to Legal Aid should not fall on the shoulders of the legal profession and family lawyersIn particular members of Resolution, will continue to lobby the Government to review this again as a matter of priority.”

Malvika Jaganmohan, barrister at St Ives Chambers. 

“Lawyers aren’t particularly known for prioritising our mental health. We work a lot, talk about work a lot, think about work when we’re not at work. As a family lawyer, sometimes that work can be disillusioning and frustrating. There have been legal aid cuts across the board. There aren’t enough judges. Hearings take months and months to be listed, and families are left in limbo. Local authorities don’t have enough time or money. Children slip through the cracks. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking sometimes: “what’s the point?” But pro-bono reminds me about how invaluable I can be, and it reminds me why my job matters. Without me, my pro-bono clients would be forced to navigate the legal system alone, and that must be absolutely terrifying. I can see the tangible impact my involvement has and that gives me a real boost and reminds me why I do this work in the first place.”  

Jacqueline Mulryne, partner at Arnold & Porter, said:

Pro-bono work is hugely important to Arnold & Porter, and the firm encourages lawyers to devote 15% of their time to pro bono work. It was certainly one of the reasons I joined the firm, and it is fully supported by senior management.  

I have always felt that pro-bono is an important part of my practice, and I’ve been part of the Pro Bono Committee in London for around 10 years. During that time, Arnold & Porter in London has been lucky enough to be involved in a range of matters, from a multinational project to improve access to HIV self-testing in Africa to cases defending pension rights for transgender women that have been heard in every court in England and in the European Court to helping individuals regularise their immigration status in the UKas well as many projects where our assistance doesn’t make it into the public domain.  

“There are many reasons to get involved in pro-bono work, particularly as a junior lawyer, where you’re often given more responsibility, and exposure to clients or other partners in the firm, than with other matters. But what is common to all projects, and one of the reasons I do pro-bono work, is the gratitude and disbelief from clients that lawyers are willing to offer their assistance free of charge in what is usually the most difficult time of their life, and where the alternative is having to face the legal system alone. That professional assistance and support is invaluable for clients. You don’t realise how valuable your legal skills are and being able to read and understand a lot of documents, and guide someone on the best way to respond, can make a world of difference.”

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